THE HON MARK DREYFUS KC MP
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment
(Prohibited Hate Symbols And Other Measures) Bill 2023
29 November 2023
In June I introduced this bill to criminalise the public display of and trade in Nazi hate symbols. There is no place in Australia for hatred, violence and antisemitism. There is no place in Australia for symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust. And there is no place in Australia for evil and offensive acts that celebrate Nazi ideology. Today, the Albanese Labor government is strengthening our legislation to ensure that never again will anyone in this country be allowed to celebrate or profit from acts and symbols of the Nazis and terrorist organisations.
When introducing the bill, I said that if we needed to go further we would. And today the government delivers on that promise. Following careful consideration of recommendations by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in its advisory report on the bill, the government is pleased to introduce amendments to implement recommendations that enhance protection for the community. I find it unthinkable that in this country, which provided refuge to my father, my grandparents and thousands more who fled the Holocaust, some continue to celebrate the ideology of Nazism. Sadly, antisemitism is on the rise, so today the government is making a good bill even better.
These amendments will make it a criminal offence to publicly perform the Nazi salute. Criminalising the performance of the Nazi salute will complement the other measures in the bill relating to Nazi symbols. Like those symbols, the Nazi salute is widely recognised and used to promote hateful ideologies, recruit followers and convey messages of hatred and violence. It represents the vile ideology of Nazism and conjures fear in many sectors of the Australian community whose predecessors suffered through some of the worst atrocities in history. It is appalling that there have been incidents involving the performance of the Nazi salute in Australia, and it has to stop. Any attempt to re-enliven and disseminate Nazi ideology must be definitively characterised as criminal behaviour. With this amendment, the Commonwealth parliament will be joining with Victoria and Tasmania, who have already acted to outlaw this public display of hatred, and South Australia, which has announced its intention to enact similar laws. The amendments would remove the express reference to the Islamic State flag from the definition of prohibited symbol for the purposes of offences for the public display of and trade in items that bear a prohibited symbol. This reflects the concerns raised by the Muslim community and accepted by the Parliament Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that the shahada and the seal of the Prophet have been misappropriated by a terrorist organisation. We will not let a terrorist organisation cause further harm and distress to any in our community. The government thanks the Australian Muslim community for its engagement on the bill and their valuable feedback that has informed these amendments. The government condemns Islamophobia and stands with the Australian Muslim community in opposition to terrorism in all its forms.
It's important to make clear that this amendment in no way makes it acceptable for anyone to glorify the evil ideology of Islamic State by displaying that flag. Instead, the amendments will introduce a new offence for the public display of and trade in items bearing prohibited terrorist organisation symbols. These are symbols that a terrorist organisation, such as Islamic State or the Sonnenkrieg Division, use to identify the organisation. Terrorist organisations advocate for and carry out serious and violent acts. These criminal organisations use symbols to build group belonging and to spread their ideology as well as fear and hatred in our community. Their ideologies are incompatible with Australian values and our way of life. These offences complement existing terrorist organisation offences by making terrorist organisations less visible and attractive to others. These new offences have been carefully considered and crafted so as to not capture legitimate uses of the symbols that are not intended to advocate hatred or incite discrimination, hostility or violence. These amendments would implement recommendation 1 of the PJCIS advisory report.
The offences for trade in items that bear prohibited symbols, be they Nazi symbols or terrorist organisation symbols, will bring an end to the profiting from these hateful ideologies and the notoriety flowing from the crimes these organisations have committed. These amendments do not accept the PJCIS's recommendation to delay the commencement of these provisions for six to 12 months. A deferred commencement of these offences could see a significant increase in the value of items bearing these symbols. There is simply no place for profiting from the trade of items that bear the symbols of ideologies of hate and extremism. And, just as we are opposed to any delay in the commencement of these new criminal offences, so, too, are we opposed to a review within two years, which was the amendment moved by the opposition. There is no need for these provisions, these new criminal offences, to be seen in any way as temporary, and that would be the effect of the opposition amendment. These bans that are included in this bill, as amended by these amendments, need to be seen as permanent.
When introducing criminal laws, it's important to ensure that offences do not interfere with the legitimate rights of journalists to report on such matters. That's why the original bill contains specific exemptions for journalists along with religious, academic, educational, artistic, literary, journalistic or scientific purposes. The government had agreed to further amendments recommended by the PJCIS to extend the journalist exemption to those working in a professional capacity as an editor or producer or in another role involved in the news and current affairs reporting process. The amendments similarly amend the offences related to violent extremist materials. These amendments are intended to ensure that all people reporting on news and current affairs in a genuine, professional capacity are not at risk of prosecution in relation to offences for the public display of prohibited symbols and violent extremist material. These amendments recognise the crucial role that the media plays in our democratic society.
The government thanks the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for its comprehensive review of the bill and the recommendations that have led to the enhancement of the measures. We now look forward to support across the parliament to ensure these important reforms are passed this year.
As I said at the start, I find it unthinkable that, in this country, which provided refuge to my father, to my grandparents and to thousands more who fled the Holocaust, there are people in Australia today celebrating the ideology that murdered their families and millions of others. It ought to be a matter of great pride in our country, which is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, that everybody is free to live in our country without fear of discrimination. We have a good record, but we can do better.
This bill is part of that effort. It's something that every national leader, every member of parliament and every community leader should be working towards. We must promote and support respect, acceptance and understanding across the Australian community. This is a moment for the country to come together and do just that.